Fantasy Cliches and How to Use Them by L.F. Oake

New races in fantasy books aren’t hard to find. It seems with every new series, there are new monsters or races included. Even I’ve done it with my high fantasy series, The Chronicles of Jaydür. Why? Because creating a whole world is not complete without creating new races to be a part of that world. You don’t want to be stuck using fantasy cliches. At least, not done the same way they have been done already.

The great thing about fantasy is that there are no real limitations. Whether your main character is a granite-laden gargoyle or a green-skinned elephant unicorn, anything is possible in the genre. One of my favorite things to do, though, is play with what your average fantasy reader already knows.

Take pixies, for example.

Some know them as the troublesome pests in some old Celtic myths. Others know them as just being another type of faerie. But who knows them as the dark, hairless, carnivorous creatures who are taken over by blood-lust at the scent of it? No one! Because they’re not commonly done that way–if ever done that way. But in my world of Jaydür, this is what they are. I’ve taken a perfectly recognized creature and twisted it this way and that until I had something familiar enough, but different enough to stand out.See

The killer pixies of Jaydür are now pretty well-known among my reader-base, and the focus of my most popular scene in Nahtaia: A Jaydürian Adventure.

See? It is totally possible to take something old and recognized and make it new and exhilarating for your readers!

We’ve seen it done to other familiar fantasy creatures like trolls in Shannara, or on a more extreme level, the oliphaunts in The Lord of the Rings. Seriously, how many people stop to think, “Well, gee golly. I’m going to take a random animal like an elephant and make it six times the size and throw it into war scenes. Why? Because, why the heck not? Elephants, man!” And it worked! In The Return of the King, at the battle of the Pelennor Fields, the oliphaunts were a huge deal and by far one of the most memorable scenes among movie-watchers.

Come on. You saw Legolas take that thing down by himself. It was impressive. Don’t even pretend it wasn’t.

Another way to use fantasy cliche’s in writing is what Stephenie Meyer did with vampires in Twilight. Sure, it’s not the most popular example–I know there are a few readers still irked by the whole sparkling vampire thing–but the fact is that Meyer found major success through playing with common tropes of vampires and werewolves.

Writers need to stop listening to all the “rules” thrown out into the interwebs. There is always something that one person finds annoying while another adores it!

This also opens the doors of opportunity to new readers who are trying to read fantasy for the first time in their lives. They’re the readers who don’t want their book to be saturated in new creatures and unknown concepts that a well-seasoned fantasy reader may be looking for.

Anything that’s been done before can be done again, differently, and find success. And there are still things that haven’t been done in the first place! The human mind holds insane power of imagination and we would be crazy not to use it!

So whether you’re thinking of writing the next serial killing unicorn, or sweet and cuddly zombie panda, just go for it. See what you can come up with. Let your mind play!

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More about L.F. Oake:

L.F Oake (AKA Lilian Oake) is an international bestselling author of teen and adult fantasy. She is best known for Nahtaia: A Jaydürian Adventure, which boasts a whopping 3.7 million online hits. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, she moved to North Carolina where she writes full time and is hard at work on her next book. When she is not writing, she is educating her horde of goblins in the ways of Middle Earth and Narnia with the help of her husband.

You can find Lilian on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. She manages her personal website at www.lfoake.com and co-owns The Book Tavern at www.thebooktavern.com.

Her newest release is The Lost Voice, the first book in The Chronicles of Jaydür.

Chapter 22: Rebellion’s Song

It’s here y’all!  “You just published a book,” you’re thinking.  And you are correct!  On May 23rd I introduced you to Ethlynn, and I invite you to continue her journey on August 22nd with Rebellion’s Song.

Without spoiling too much, here are some things I’m excited to show in this story:

  1. MERMAIDS
  2. Werewolf Alpha
  3. Across the sea to Seinako
  4. MERMAIDS
  5. Wystan learning more about being a Causspri
  6. Nash and Ethlynn = the feels
  7. MERMAIDS

….

The rebellion is over. The real fight has just begun…

Recently victorious in her rebellion against the crown, Ethlynn must now keep her newly freed people alive.  Though they won their first battle, they have no functioning government or trained army, and Ethlynn’s magic alone won’t be enough to protect them.  Desperate to never wear a slave collar again, she resolves to travel with her brother Kemp to the neighboring country of Seinako to negotiate an alliance.

Flying on the back of a dragon and swimming to the ocean’s darkest depths to make deals with mermaids, Ethlynn realizes the world is far bigger than she could have ever imaged – and infinitely more dangerous.

The sorcerers of the crown are furious at her betrayal and enlist the Alpha of Esper’s deadliest werewolf pack to find her, and the huntsman doesn’t plan to bring her back alive.  It’s not enough to survive. She must win over Seinako before the new world she created comes crumbling down.  Even if that means she must become the cold-blooded killer the crown once groomed her to be…

Chapter 21: Why You Should Have a Map, Even if Your Readers Don’t

I’ve shared this map before, and I’ll do it again.  Why?  Because what you see here is the only reason I have a handle on where my series is going.  The definition of epic fantasy means that you have to create a world.  It’s some authors’ strength, and others’ weakness.  Either way, it’s necessary.

If you only have one nation that your book focuses on, you can get deluded into thinking you don’t need a map.  But, here’s the thing… your world simply won’t real the readers in.  When I mention different cities in the real world, readers instantly can picture something.  If they’re unfamiliar with the city, it’s pictures they’ve seen online.  If they’ve been there, they can even imagine the city’s smells, humidity, and general ‘feel’ that is hard to convey in writing.

For example, Hero Status by Kristen Brand takes place in Miami.  Instantly, she’s already half way through her description simply by telling you the city.  Palm trees, salty air from the ocean, sweat-inducing humidity, sun so bright you’re still squinting with sunglasses on.  Then there’s the fact that her protagonist Dave is Hispanic, so you get glimpses into the predominating culture of the area.

Now, if I mention Mereu… nothing comes to your mind.  Why?  Because it’s a city in my world for this series.  You have no predispositions about it.  I have to describe everything from the ground up.  That city is very important for one of my minor characters, Rutley, and I know that he’ll be spending more time there as the series goes on.  It shapes him.

Where your characters come from, where they would go if the chaos of your plot didn’t get in the way… all of that is important.  Even if not all of the information comes up, you should have your map written down.  Before I had it professionally created, I had a rough sketch that I used as I was writing.  It reminded me of all the possibilities of where my characters could go.

With every book in my series, a new country (sometimes more than one) is added into the thick of the plot.  I already know everything about the culture of every place I will ever mention.  Why is this important?  Foreshadowing.

I feel like I’m rambling, even though this blog post isn’t that long yet.  I just want to leave you with this message: in this world, you can type into the GPS of your phone and go wherever you want.  In the fictional world you create, it’s up to you to make that a journey for your reader rather than a ‘trip from Point A to Point B’ (aka your plot points).  Take the time.  Build your world.  It’ll help built your characters and your plot.

Write Perspective: The Scorpion Rules

PURCHASE HERE!

Book Description:

Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

Good for people who enjoy: post-apocalyptic, LGBT protagonist, strong female lead, robot versus human

Review: What strikes me about this book is that I didn’t want to like it.  Erin Bow has a unique writing style that at first I didn’t care for, but now it’s one of my favorite things about the book.  Bow writes from the first person and very informally.  I thought it was strange, but every time I put the book down I’d pick it back up five minutes later.  Why?  The book got me thinking.

The main character Greta is someone I truly enjoyed reading about.  She’s a duchess and Crown Princess so she’s strong, but she’s also a Child of Peace and therefore weak.  She’s complex and intelligent and very diplomatic.  Throughout the book you see the world she thinks she knows shattered in front of her all because of a boy, but the way Bow goes about it is so unconventional that you’re on the edge of your seat.

Perhaps one of my favorite exchanges between Greta and the all-powerful robot overload is when she tells him that no, she’s not doing this for the boy she loves – in fact, she’s falling in love with her (female) best friend, Li Da-Xia or “Xie”, the Daughter of the Heavenly Throne. The boy Elian changed her life, not by coming in on a horse to save her, but by coming in shackled in chains to doom her.

The world Bow creates in clear cut and no-nonsense.  If her people go into war, Greta will die.  Her only concern is to do so gracefully and with honor.  In fact, the entire novel starts with one of her lifelong friends being brought to his own death.  Her thoughts?  At least he’d be proud his nation won.  When I think to Greta of that scene, and then the Greta at the end of my book, I’m so overwhelmingly impressed by such a drastic growth arc that felt so natural when reading.

I was brought very quickly into this world ruled by Artificial Intelligence.  It’s the kind of world where when you’re back brought into this one, the ‘real world’, you start thinking.  This world feels a little less real because your mind is so deeply invested in this one created by Bow.

This review is unique in that I don’t want to go more into the book, because somehow I feel like anything I can say would be a spoiler.  All I can say is that I read this book from the library, and it’s so good that I’m now buying the hardcover so that I can read it whenever I like, and you should do the same.

PURCHASE HERE TODAY!

Chapter 20: Victory Lap

This chapter will be entirely dedicated to my happiness, so be prepared for cliches and annoying tears of joy…

When I started writing this blog, The Freedom Game was in the editing stages.  My sister Kristen read it for the first time last summer and as we were living together at that point, I was able to see a lot of her reactions.  She was happy when I wanted her to be happy, and furious at me when I wanted her to be furious at what was happening to my protagonist, Ethlynn.  When she finished it, she said she could genuinely see it on a shelf at a bookstore and my heart nearly exploded.  She also pointed out to me how much I had improved since the last book I finished (one the world will never read due to it simply not being good).  It was then that I decided that nothing would stop me from publishing that book.

The list of rejections goes past being able to count on my fingers and toes.  Several of the agents only responded with template responses, and the rest didn’t respond at all.  Each ‘no, but remember that this is a subjective field, so keep trying’ was another piece of my heart breaking.  The template emails were kind, but they weren’t ‘yes’, and that almost made it harder.  It made me sad rather than angry.

That’s where my sister Kristen and best friend Courtney stepped in.  They were the only two at that point who had read the book.  Not only would they ask about the agent’s responses, but they would ask about my characters.  It hardened my resolve, and I can say now that I doubt this book would be published now without them.

In January I reached out to Y. Nikolova at Ammonia Book Covers.  Several emails and six days later, she had the first draft of the cover drawn up.  That was when I purchased Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn.  With my degree in Finance, I knew that I wanted to do everything right from a business prospective as well as a creative one.  I published in May, because that’s when “Fantasy/Sci Fi” sells the best.  I had people read the book prior to publication because I wanted their reviews posted on the first day.  I studied pricing so that I knew how much I could afford to ask for as a debut indie author.  I did everything.

On May 23rd, it published.  I was at my full-time job for eight hours that felt like eight years.  How dare the real world not put itself on hold for my special day?

I had people texting me pictures of the screenshot ‘Thank you for purchasing The Freedom Game by J.E. Brand’ and every single text was like picking up a piece of my once broken heart and putting it right back together.

It was that same week that I had my first unaccounted for sale.  I couldn’t trace it back to anyone I knew, and my heart might’ve possibly stopped beating all together.  I was also getting reads through people could read it for free (I get paid per page read) and I knew that anyone I knew wouldn’t choose to read it that way.  Within two days eight hundred pages of it were read, which is it being read nearly three times!  Then, on May 25th, a complete stranger rated it 4 stars on Goodreads and my heart might’ve stopped beating all together.  This meant two things: (1) a stranger had read my book from start to finish and (2) they had actually liked it.  It was my first completely unbiased review, and it was still good.

The thing about debuting as an indie author is that it’s a marathon, not a race.  I get a sale here and there.  That review from the 25th is still the only review of my book, and that’s okay.  I write because I love to do so, and I publish because I want to share what I love with the rest of the world.  An expression you often hear when depressed involves “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but let me say when it’s reversed, and every little victory is like conquering a mountain, the world is a very good place.  Every time someone buys my book, it’s another reminder that my dream actually came true.

None of it felt real until the picture posted above.  It was when I held my book for the very first time.  A book that I wrote was in my hands.  I could hold it and it was real.  I could flip through the pages and see words that I had written.  In the back was an ‘About Author’ section with my picture at the top.  The picture was taken after my freakish sobbing finally calmed down and my eyes weren’t as red, but definitely still producing a tear or two.  It was surreal but undeniable.  I’m now a published author, and I couldn’t be happier.